Head to Amsterdam on April 30 - the Dutch Queen's birthday.
With sound stages and dancing in the street wherever you turn, it’s like an urban Glastonbury, or the Notting Hill Carnival with a friendlier vibe.
It’s impossible not to have a brilliant time, even if you take a dim view of some of the ‘Dam’s more liberal trademarks - don't turn up without sorting accommodation though, or you may find yourself kipping in the same hotel (complete with rat trap under the bed) that I ended up at...
If Amsterdam’s tourists and tack overwhelm you head for a little known doorway on the ‘Spui’ through which you can enter the Begijnhof’s little haven of medieval serenity.
It’s a court of almshouses clustered around a peaceful garden where devout women have been housed since 1475 and religious women continue to be housed.
If you miss the hidden doorway, the entrance is also through the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the former city orphanage on Kalverstraat.
Stay away from the hoards of drunk hen and stag parties and take a lesiurely cruise down the canals stopping off for lunch in Browerstracht - an old part of Amsterdam town with hidden trendy restaurants and longtime locals.
However still be aware of the possibility that a red light in a window is not necessarily an interior designers and the lady in the window hasnt mistakenly locked herself inside her living room glass cabinet whilst looking for something to wear.
Rent a bike and cycle to the museum of Electricity, near to the zoo.
A knock on the door and several minutes later it's opened by dishevelled caretaker. It's all a little unpromising, but head to the rear hall and you're met by the sight of enormous generators, weird cars, bikes, street-lamps, enough to distract you from the fact you're in an electricity museum.
A great find, and an offbeat excursion for a morning away from the red-light hustle.
Amsterdamse Bos is a campsite in Amsterdam. Great for canoeing, horse riding and really getting a different holiday.
The bar man will wind up an old record player for you and ask you to wipe your bum on a rabbit if there's no toilet roll, but apart from that it's relaxing.
It's close to the metro and motorway but is an ideal retreat if you prefer to be away from the city at night.
If you want to see one of the best and most memorable art collections in Europe come to Amsterdam and catch a train or bus to Otterloo to make a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum.
It has a remarkable collection of the best of a variety of great artists. The choice of the original collection was made by a very discerning art collector. The best Van Goghs are there which you can compare with those in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
And there are many other artist’s works and sculptures in the park set in open countryside.
I stayed in Amsterdam for 5 days, and for you birders out there this is a very nice thing to do.
Go with the train from Amsterdam central station to Almere Buiten. It takes 30 minutes to get there. On the internet i booked a local bird guide to show me the Oostvaardersplassen. A nature reserve with lots of birds and mammals. You can go by yourself but you need a rental car and the right places to go.
I have booked the birdwatching tour with Flevo Birdwatching (www.birdsnetherlands.nl)
Take a trip along these gentle waterways and enjoy the fairytale atmosphere of the quaint houses with their narrow frontages. Hooks high up above the top storey testify to the time when payment of rates of houses was based on the size of their frontages. These were kept as narrow as possible, hence stairs were unable to accommodate furniture which had then to be taken up by hoist.
A gentle bike ride around Amsterdam that takes you all around the city and then down the Amstel into the countryside (where you can add a windmill and cheese farm/clog factory to your sightseeing list).
Our guide, the irrepressible and engaging Egg, was incredibly learned on the city's history and liberal sex and drugs laws. All of which he assured us he'd researched in depth purely for our benefit. An excellent introduction to the city that makes you understand what Amsterdam is all about. Oh, and there's a free beer token in it too ... what more could you possibly want?
IIt’s worth taking the train out of Amsterdam if you want a break away from it. Haarlem is a great place to visit. This little town is about half an hour away from Amsterdam and the Dutch trains are clean and punctual. It’s easy to operate the automated ticket system after studying it for a while, but if there is a problem, there are kiosks where a person will be able to help.
This is a hidden gem of a museum, containing one of the world's largest collection of Van Gogh's art. It is located within sand dunes and in fact its grounds are as spectacular as its art - you cycle through forest and dunes to reach the museum.
It's best visisted on a warm, sunny day, and best reached via car.
Houtkampweg 6, 6731 AW, Otterlo; tel 318 59 1241; www.kmm.nl
Edam is a delightfully unspoilt village a few miles outside Amsterdam. There are a couple of excellent hotels, the best of which is de Fortuna, in an idyllic setting alongside quintessential Dutch canals and bridges. It has a great restaurant too, with wonderful paintings of local fisherman from a bygone age.
Stay here and take the regular bus service to and from Amsterdam, and you'll get the best of both urban and rural Holland. When you don't want to travel to the city, hire a bike and follow the tranquil cycleways to either the grand old port of Hoorn to the north or the quaint fishing village of Marken to the south.
This may sound like a cliché, but nothing can prepare you for the exhilarating feeling of cycling on Dutch country paths made especially for you (the cyclist), through forests, along the coast, and - for the pièce de résistance - through fields of tulips in full bloom. The flowers only bloom for four to six weeks and the best time to see them is May.
Take the train from Amsterdam Central Station to Alkmaar
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